H.P. Lovecraft is a cult-figure in the world of horror fiction. Needless to say any fan of horror and the wicked will not be a stranger to his name and his works. Metal fans know of him, since his name has a tendency to appear in lyrics, either as homage or for the purpose of making them eerie. Because isn't the name in of itself kind of creepy?
I first came in contact with this name, and this writer, while I was still very young. Back then I would read the English original works, even though I barely comprehended enough to make sense of what I was reading. Still it was just something special about the stories enticing me.
Later on I would slowly begin to get a better grip of the English used in his novels making me enjoying the stories even more. I even went out of my way to find the Swedish translations, just for comparison; but they would all leave me in big disappointment. Going through the unavoidable losses of translation there were basically nothing at all left of what made Lovecraft so good, almost as though it lacked it's soul. Some things you just have to enjoy in the original.
Lovecraft was born on August 20, 1890, in Providence, Rhode Island. In 1893 Lovecrafts father became acutely psychotic and later died in 1898. The duty of raising Lovecraft was left in the hands of his mother and aunts, and perhaps most important of all, his maternal grandfather.
Lovecrafts grandfather encouraged him to read and introduced him to the great works, such as The Arabian nights, Bullfinch's Age of Fable as well as children's versions of the Iliad and the Odyssey. The grandfather would also tell his own stories about Gothic horror.
As a child Lovecraft was frequently ill, which hindered him from normally attending school. Something which he felt great shame about. He couldn’t get a diploma. But he still kept up a voracious reading habit. Devouring not only prose and poetry but also scientific books. He especially took interest in astronomy and chemistry.
It is believed that Lovecraft as a child suffered from night terrors. He believed himself being assailed by night gaunts. Some of his later stories is thought to be directly inspired by these experiences. Which, if I may say it myself, adds to the eerily vividness of the creatures in his stories.
With the death of his grandfather in 1904, Lovecraft was destroyed. Besides losing a loved one the family was also forced to move out of their family home after seeing the grandfather's estate gotten mismanaged by his business associates. All of this would drive him to the brink of suicide.
In the earlier years Lovecraft wrote mostly poetry. But it was with novels, especially horror novels he would get most of his fame. Lovecraft enjoyed the pulp magazines of the early 1900s and would also contribute with his own stories.
Lovecraft never earned enough money on his writing to sustain himself. For a living he was forced to take money from what little heritage there was left from his grandfather. On top of that he worked as a revising other peoples work as well as doing ghostwriting.
He married a girl he met at a gathering for journalists. They married but a series of disasters caused the married to become pretty unhappy. In New York Lovecraft was out of his environment.
He didn’t like new york, he wanted back to Providence.
After leaving New York, back to Providence, divorcing his wife, was the most productive in his life.
The 10 years remaining he produced the works today most recognized as the cult of cthulu.
He died from cancer of the intestine. He kept a very detailed account of his desease through the years but he didn’t go a nd look or a cure. When he atlast went to the hospital they could only give hm some morphine to ease the pain. He died five days later.
Lovecraft produced horror, fantasy and science fiction, especially fiction known under the subgenre of Weird fiction. His best known literary work is the Cthulu Mythos, which inclueds many of his later stories all involving the Great Old Ones, ancient and powerful extraterrestrial beings.
Another of his influential literary inventions is the Necronomicon, a fictional book appearing in many of his stories, purportedly written by the Mad Arab, Abdul Alhazred. Lovecraft purposely wanted to make Necronomicon as believable as possible, and it was very successfull. There are many stoires of antiquaries and book shops getting requests about it. Even other authors in the field quoted the book in their works, making the illusion even stronger..
If Edgar Allan Poe was the most influential horror writer of the 1900s Lovecraft is probably the one of the 20th. Even Stephen King has called Lovecraft "the twentieth century's greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.”, and accredited Lovecraft for getting him into the genre. But it wasn't until after his death his fame started to rise.
Heart of Darkness
As well as being an extraordinary story, Heart of Darkness contains some of the most fantastic language in English literature. Conrad had a strange history: he was born in Poland, traveled though France, became a seaman when he was 16, and spent a good deal of time in South America. These influences lent his style a wonderfully authentic colloquialism. But, in Heart of Darkness, we also see a style that is remarkably poetic for a prose work. More than a novel, the work is like an extended symbolic poem, affecting the reader with the breadths of its ideas as well as the beauty of its words.
Talk about he title Heart of Darkness
Conrad deals in this novel with the dark heart of mankind, a topic he seems to enjoy writing about. He tells us that man in inherently evil and his evils is only masked by civilization.
If he wants a quote> In the final moments of his life, Kurtz is in a fever. Even so, he seems to see something that we cannot. Staring within himself he can only mutter, "The horror! The horror!"
Many commentators have seen Conrad's representation of the "dark" continent and its people as very much as part of a racist tradition that has existed in Western literature for centuries. Most notably, Chinua Achebe accused Conrad of racism because of his refusal to see the black man as an individual in his own right, and because of his use of Africa as a setting--representative of darkness and evil.
Although it is true that evil--and the corrupting power of evil--is Conrad's subject, Africa is not merely representative of that theme. Contrasted with the "dark" continent of Africa is the "light" of the sepulchered cities of the West, a juxtaposition that does not necessarily suggest that Africa is bad or that the supposedly civilized West is good.
The darkness at the heart of the civilized white man (particularly the civilized Kurtz who entered the jungle as an emissary of pity and science of process and who becomes a tyrant) is contrasted and compared with the so-called barbarism of the continent. The process of civilization is where the true darkness lies.
A seaman sat upon a tugboat moored in the river Thames narrates the main section of the story. This man, named Marlow, tells his fellow passengers that he spent a good deal of time in Africa. In one instance, he was called upon to pilot a trip down the river Congo in search of an ivory agent, who was sent as part of the British colonial interest in an unnamed African country. This man, named Kurtz, disappeared without a trace--inspiring worry that he'd gone "native," been kidnapped, absconded with the company's money, or been killed by the insular tribes in the middle of the jungle.
As Marlow and his crewmates move closer to the place Kurtz was last seen, he starts to understand the attraction of the jungle. Away from civilization, the feelings of danger and possibility start to become attractive to him because of their incredible power. When they arrive at the inner station, they find that Kurtz has become a king, almost a God to the tribesmen and women who he has bent to his will. He has also taken a wife, despite the fact he has a European fiance at home.
Marlow also finds Kurtz ill. Although Kurtz doesn't wish it, Marlow takes him aboard the boat. Kurtz does not survive the journey back, and Marlow must return home to break the news to Kurtz's fiance. In the cold light of the modern world he is unable to tell the truth, and instead lies about the way Kurtz lived in the heart of the jungle and the way he died.
Written by Joseph Conrad on the eve of the century that would see the end of the empire that it so significantly critiques, Heart of Darkness is both an adventure story set at the center of a continent represented through breathtaking poetry, as well as a study of the inevitable corruption that comes from the exercise of tyrannical power.
Copyright: Initially serialized in 1899 and published as a book in 1902; this text is in public domain. I read the Everyman's Library edition (1993, Knopf, New York).
Length: 110 pages
Summary: A party of five men at their leisure on a yawl within sight of London listen to one man, Marlowe, tell of his experience in working for a Belgian enterprise in Africa as a steamship captain. He recalls his journey into the jungle to take supplies up the Congo river to a station agent, Mr. Kurtz. We hear Marlowe describe the intimidating nature of the jungle environment, the Company employees who fritter away time and resources, the ill-treatment of black laborers, and the strange personality cult that has arisen around Mr. Kurtz as he wields monarchical powers in the depths of the jungle. Kurtz, by the time Marlowe finds him, is deathly ill and those who surround him present odd perspectives of his role and influence in the jungle setting. After an illness, Marlowe subsequently returns to England, himself a changed man who may or may not be able to articulate the substance of his experience.
There is a good deal of the hallucination and nightmare in Marlowe's story. Conrad has Marlowe provide us with a fragmented set of events and expects us to add in those details left outside the printed page while inviting the reader to come to his/her own conclusions as to the point.
Extract: "They shouted, sang; their bodies streamed with perspiration; they had faces like grotesque masks--these chaps; but they had bone, muscle, a wild vitality, an intense energy of movement, that was as natural and true as the surf along their coast. They wanted no excuse for being there. They were a great comfort to look at. For a time I would feel I belonged still to a world of straightforward facts; but the feeling would not last long. Something would turn up to scare it away. Once, I remember, we came upon a man-of-war anchored off the coast. There wasn't even a shed there, and she was shelling the bush. It appears the French had one of their wars going on thereabouts. Her ensign dropped limp like a rag; the muzzles of the long eight-inch guns stuck out all over the low hull; the greasy, slimy swell swung her up lazily and let her down, swaying her thin masts. In the empty immensity of earth, sky, and water, there she was, incomprehensible, firing into a continent. Pop, would go one of the eight-inch guns; a small flame would dart and vanish, a little white smoke would disappear, a tiny projectile would give a feeble screech--and nothing happened. Nothing could happen. There was a touch of insanity in the proceeding, a sense of lugubrious drollery in the sight; and it was not dissipated by somebody on board assuring me earnestly there was a camp of natives--he called them enemies!--hidden out of sight somewhere."
Also Relevant: This is for many a controversial book. In 1977, Chinua Achebe wrote an essay, challenging the continued praise heaped on Heart of Darkness and stressing its inherent racism on the basis of Conrad's inability to see African society as being of equal stature with that of European society. Certainly, Heart of Darkness spells out the incomprehensibility that Africa represents for Marlowe (and by extension, Conrad); he is unable to understand the language, finds navigating the physical environment both intimidating mystifying, and ultimately is unable to account for the behaviors of any humans in this setting. The baffled conclusion to Marlowe's tale to his fellows expresses that lack of comprehension; he does not know how to go forward in civilized life now that he has returned to London. He cannot reconcile man's interior purpose with civilized man's history, having seen Kurtz in Africa. He speaks of having wrestled with a man's soul while being unable to express the essence of the man to those who pursue Kurtz even after death.
I sat and scribbled in my moleskine for several pages, trying to frame what I thought of this book. The themes are rather numerous for working through the author's point. One can focus on colonialism, light vs. darkness, constant movement inward (we know nothing of how Marlowe makes his way back to London) and at least another dozen concepts found in the text. Thinking about it from another standpoint, the Fowler and TipTree short stories discussed here owed a good deal to Heart of Darkness. I realized it only once I'd really finished the book. But everything and everyone is "The Other" in Conrad's world. I think Conrad's point was that there is a mystery to our existence that we may never fathom (the real heart of darkness). We can look inward for as long as we wish and we may never find an answer to that mystery; if too obsessed by the inquiry, we may even drive ourselves mad.
I need more time to think about this one.